Friday, November 12, 2010

a way to teach theology

Here’s an idea for teaching theology. Say you have a format which includes tutorials. You also have readings you expect (!) students to read. And a concern that students don’t read enough.

Why not offer an introductory frame, based say around the Wesleyan quadrilateral – experience, tradition, Scripture, reason.

(Hat tip: Diagram from Scott McKnight)

(Or perhaps you’re a bit more hip and you want add a fifth – creation and culture – ie Wesleyan pentalateral!).

(Or the practical theology model offered by John Drane, After McDonaldization: Mission, Ministry, and Christian Discipleship in an Age of Uncertainty, page 129, which uses reading; tradition; life experience; passion)

Having provided the frame, as you hand out the readings, also handout to each student 10 cards – 2 experience cards, 2 tradition cards, 2 Scripture cards, 2 reason cards, 2 creation/culture cards.

Suggest the following tutorial format:

  • each week the lecturer will offer both a case study question and a set of readings. Say the topic is Spirit and the church. So a question could be “Can a person call themselves a Christian and not be part a the church?” and the reading could be a chapter from Clark Pinnock’s fantastic Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit
  • each week the lecturer will stand at the board and prepare to scribe the student discussion
  • each week discussion is invited. This occurs by inviting each student to play one of their cards. They choose whether they bring an experience, or a Scriptural reflection, or an insight from tradition, or some reason, or an artifact from creation/culture.  (Over 10 weeks, with 10 cards, they choose how they prepare for the tutorial and what they read/reflect upon.)  All must be in relation to the case study question.  Discussion and interaction occurs.
  • in the last 15 minutes you switch from discussion to reflection on the process. Overall, how do the “cards” integrate? are there missing or overabundant parts? what are the implications?
  • each student then writes up a 1 page reflection on the case study question, upon which they are graded. This is handed in at a later date and ensures that they are provided time to settle their own theological view in relation to the question. Students gain extra marks if they do extra research over and above the class discussion. So if a class finds a weakness one week in say tradition or Scripture, and the student goes away and does extra work in this area, credit is gained.

My hunch is that this would provide both an interesting way for students to engage in theology and a way for them to continually reflect upon the actual process by which they do theology. It would encourage reflection that is not just book based and would helps students develop in areas they are not instinctively strong in.


Posted by steve at 10:34 AM